Why midlife is the best time to start hitting the festival scene

If there are seven ages of man, there must be five ages of festival-going women. Jane Dyball, co-founder of Primadonna festival and stalwart of many other festival weekends, is here to talk you through them…

From experience, the best age for festival-going is not the wide-eyed teenage years, going to the Tree/Rainbow/Strawberry Fairs of the 1970s, where for one weekend my middle-class parental indoctrination would be challenged by the glimpse of an alternative lifestyle. Where shoes were an encumbrance, where toilets were conceptual rather than actual, and where knives could be sharpened despite there being nothing to use them for.

Nor is it the know-it-all years of my twenties, when all you needed were wet-wipes and your drug of choice and you could stay up for several days in a row. No need for a tent! Just three fabulous almost-outfits in a backpack. You’d know exactly which bands to see but couldn’t actually remember seeing any of them.

It’s definitely not the toddler years. When you soon discover you are going to be spending the whole weekend in the children’s area with a tangled diabolo (and if you don’t know what one of those is, you have never been to a festival). When you’re only going to hear the Chemical Brothers from several miles away in the family campsite and where every traumatic visit to an over-used and under-cleaned portaloo has the added jeopardy of a toddler, or two, in tow.

It’s not even the years with snotty teenagers, who will stamp out any sign that their mother might be having some fun, no matter how hard you try to lose them, and who will physically prevent you from reliving your goth years by moaning throughout The Cure’s entire two hour set. Not that I’m bitter. Not that I’m particularly bitter that they later, as adults, saw The Cure voluntarily and as fans. Without me.

No! It is best to wait until you hit your queenage years to start hitting up the festival scene in earnest. I cannot recommend it highly enough. There’s always someone offering to make tea, you’ve got time and headspace to actually enjoy what’s happening around you, and there’s a LOT of positive reinforcement, along with industrial quantities of laughter. I’ve got it wrong so many times but now I’m a queenager, I’m finally getting it right.

As a repeat offender of the self-inflicted crime of ‘let’s put on a music festival’ during my thirty-year career in the music industry (how hard can it be, right?), I co-founded Primadonna, a female-first book and ideas festival (with music obvs) with 16 other women from across the media industries in 2019. We’ve doubled down on making each ‘age’ of festival-going inspirational, motivational and most importantly fun. We particularly target a female audience, but everyone should have the right to be a queenager just for one weekend, including women of all ages, men, kids, teenagers and everyone in between.

This year is a tough time for festivals, made worse by a cost-of-living crisis never seen in recent memory that makes a tank of petrol cost almost as much as a weekend ticket. On top of this, people are still working their way through years of postponed birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. Oh, and there’s an ongoing pandemic, long Covid, and having just started bingewatching Heartstopper. There are a million reasons not to go out.

But going to a festival with other queenagers means stepping into a world where all that falls away. Someone’s always around to help you put up your tent, lend you a deck chair or mind your children – or your drink – while you go to the loo (which at Primadonna is a treat not a trial). And the one thing that festivals always do (even back in those heady days of the Strawberry Fair) is take you away from yourself, smother you in fun, and set you back into your normal life feeling a bit brighter and lighter.

Go to a festival this year. Be a queenager. Heck you could even come to ours.

– Jane Dyball

What is the Primadonna Festival?

Primadonna is a festival of books, ideas and imagination taking place at the Food Museum in Suffolk from 29-31 July 2022. Primadonna has something for everyone – film, live music, comedy, food, drink, DJs and therapies, alongside a programme of talks, interviews and discussions featuring big names and emerging talent, in a beautiful venue that’s easy to get to. And loads of stuff for (big and small) kids too.

Eleanor Mills, Jane Dyball and Noon will feature at Primadonna in a session called ‘The Rise of the Queenager’ which will look at the challenges, opportunities and excitement of finding your mojo in later life.

Primadonna is offering all Noon members weekend tickets for just £70. To book, just enter PRIMADONNA70 at checkout. See primadonnafestival.com for info and to book.

Jane Dyball was one of few women of her generation to become CEO of a multi-million music business, (MCPS). In 2018 she won the Outstanding Contribution award at Music Week’s Women in Music Awards, and in 2019 she won an Ivors Academy Gold Badge Award. She previously worked at Warner/Chappell and Virgin Music. She’s founded or co-founded the Pettafiesta, Mekonville and Primadonna festivals.


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